The 2006 Rockford Speedway season of thrills and spills kicked off with the 2nd Annual Friday Night Fright, which featured a chocked lineup of hardcore racing along with the usual chaotic mess we're guaranteed to see with every visit. American Short Trackers, Hornets, School Bus Racing on the oval, Figure-8 battles in the Train Race, National Figure-8 League, Spectacular Drags and of course Monster Truck freestyle! Bob Shea and his Nemesis3 truck would be making their Rockford Speedway debut, but it was not Shea's first trip to the track. Shea debuted six years prior in July of 2000 with one of his original trucks: Master Blaster.
Shea out-jumped The Rock truck driven by rookie Scott Chisholm, but did some damage to his vehicle in the process. You can still view his final leap during that freestyle run by clicking below (WMV format).
Nemesis3 was flanked by the Full Throttle ride truck, which gave out rides before the show and would stick around for a long time afterwards for more. Nemesis3 would sit for the first part of the show as the racing program got underway
The American Short Trackers is one of the many high-power professional race series, which run weekly at Rockford Speedway. The field was made up of nearly all early 90s Ford Mustangs and they provided some cool racing. The change of pace verse all crash-n-smash is nice to have...but only in small doses!
Enough of the clean racing, bring on the Hornets! The Hornets would run three 'Buzz' races, then come back later in the program for the Hornets Challenge which is a mystery race with special stipulations, and then their grand finale is the 'Swarm' with all available cars running at one time.
Buzz #1 Winner: Alan Bekielewski
Buzz #2 Winner: Ben Montemayor
Buzz #3 Winner: Erik Knodle
The 1/4 mile racing action continued with more American Short Trackers. The field increased this time out as they fought for position into the main event later in the evening.
I'd like to see a Short Tracker car tangle with the heavy hitters of the high bank in this next race! The Diesel Divas School Bus race thundered onto the track next. The all-female competition has been known to provide equal or superior thrills to the guy's Figure-8 edition (one of which we'll see later on as well) as these ladies have no fear behind the big yellow behemoths. The shorter #86 bus had the lead for the entire race and was in a battle to hold off the #601 bus for much of it. On the last lap, the #601 of Amy Whitt found the opening she needed and powered past the #86 in the final turns to capture the checkered! Another good showing from the Diesel Divas!
A newer race that has really caught on as fun and exciting to watch is the Hornet's Challenge. Every Challenge race has a new twist to differentiate it from a normal oval event. This time, there would be two boundary tires placed on the front stretch. To end a lap and to start a lap, the drivers would have to pull a complete 360 degree tight turn around the first tire, cross the Start/Finish line, then make a second 360 degree turn around a second tire before heading off into Turn 1. The tires were placed very close together and we were bound to get some fender bending and paint trading.
The #21, 10, and 52 cars broke away from the large field early on and everyone made it around the double tires smoothly the first time by. The #10 lime green Hornet got loose into Turn 2 and smacked the wall and was never able to move back towards the front. The field thinned out as several drivers had trouble navigating the tires and took the turns way to wide.
The #316 and #10 were the fastest throughout the final laps and had a heck of a battle going on. One the second to last lap, the #10 dove inside on #316 at the first tire and spun out #10 to take a firm control of the lead. But, #10 got hung up in slower traffic around the second tire and #316 pulled right back up to the back up #10 as they took off around the oval. They charged through the final turns and headed for one final spin around the tire. The #10 went too wide and #316 dove low and dished out some payback by pushing the other car out of his way and powered across the finish line a bumper ahead of #10! Wild race and an awesome battle to the finish!!
Next up, Bob Shea fired up Nemesis3 and was ready to rock Rockford Speedway for his first Freestyle performance of the night. Shea burned up the rubber and asphalt with a quick donut and then headed to the back stretch and lined up the fresh 4-car set to demolish. Shea hit the cars a ton and launched Nemesis3 completely up into the air and across the cars with a great opening jump that got the crowd fired up already.
Shea spun Nemesis3 around and attacked the cars from the other direction, but did not get the air he wanted. He drove across the cars and headed down into the infield of Turn 3 where another 4-car set sat prone for destruction! Shea made a small jump on his first attempt on the new stack, but then really stood the front end up on his next try.
Shea was just getting started and unleashed another set of donuts right in the middle of the 'X'. He rumbled Nemesis3 back to the far set and charged the cars hard from the left side getting some decent air. Shea lined up another hit and picked up the speed on this pass and it showed! Nemesis3 blasted over the entire set, all four tires clearing the cars, landed hard on the grass and Shea mashed the gas to power Nemesis3 up into a slap wheelie!
Shea showed Nemesis3 could handle the high banks and shot the truck through Turns 3 & 4 on his way to the near set with another big wheel stand, with a pogo into the second car. Shea had one more trick up his sleeve and drove Nemesis3 to the back stretch and aimed for the trunks of the cars! He cleared the hoods of the cars and landed very hard on the asphalt, which gave him the chance for another slap wheelie!
The crowd went nuts at that move and the fans were already going crazy even before Shea could get his helmet off and wave. Excellent, solid run for Bob Shea in Nemesis3! Hopefully another one yet to come to close out the show.
We all had to catch our breathes a little bit after that run while the contestants (insane people) pulled their street vehicles onto the track for Spectacular Drags! From the first day I witnessed Spectacular Drags I knew the people who were willing to take their pride and joy cars out on a real race track for 30 seconds of fun were out of their minds. Yet, what did I do? I eagerly joined them on six separate occasions and even took home the win back in September of 2004. But, my perceptions of Spectacular Drags quickly turned from fun to all out anger and rage after nearly being hurt and my Dakota destroyed at the hands of some drunken, crazed, crap wad and his p.o.s. minivan. I'm still a fan of the event, I just pray no one ever has to go through what I did and everyone can get along and race safe out there.
There was some very close and hard racing within this group of vehicles including a neck-and-neck showdown between a Chevy Silverado and a jacked up Dodge Ram. The Dodge had too much tire spin off the line and really was sunk at that point. He fought back, but spun coming out the Turn 4 and handed over the win. A favorite to win the Spectacular Drags is always Larry Sheer in his Camaro. But, Sheer was knocked off in Round 2 by a smooth-running, hard-driving Mitsubishi 3000GT! That same car would eventually go on to win the Finals over a Buick Regal GS.
NF8L, the National Figure-8 League, stormed onto the track next for their feature bout. The 5-car field was very mismatched from the start as the #1 and #157 cars dominated the opening laps and began lapping the competitors. They both went back and forth with the lead while managing to avoid catastrophe through the 'X.' On the final lap, the #157 was spun around in turn 4 and handed the win to the #1 car. A good battle up front throughout the race, but not much else happening.
The American Short Trackers 25-lap Feature was won by the Matt Berger's #91 car after starting 7th and charging to the front around spun-out cars and a couple caution flags.
What is red, white & blue, three vehicles long, and known for pure domination? Answer: Gary Oscarson's Figure-8 Train Race team! Does anyone else stand a chance? Really? I didn't think so and even making Oscarson start in last place probably wasn't going to help. Sure enough... two turns into the race and the #66 train was already climbing and was up to third and gaining on the #8 truck and #6 Bronco. But they weren't just going to let Oscarson walk away with it. Oscarson got too wild and lost control through the middle of the X and slipped back into 4th momentarily. He regained third on the next lap and powered around the track with reckless abandon to try and catch the #8 team whom were trying to fight off the #6 squad. The Dale Jr. theme #8 team opened up a half track lead, but if Oscarson's truck was still running, that meant he was coming to get ya! Oscarson closed the gap and blasted through the center of the 'X' and snatched the lead away! The #8 team's truck began to suffer motor problems and was no longer a threat. The other two trains were door-too-door battling for 2nd place on the final lap and the #6 Bronco hung onto the spot by only a truck length. Oscarson takes the win with another dominating performance.
A huge 24-car Hornet lineup swarmed the track for their main event race. This was a classic Hornet race with wild action, close calls, tight racing, and some inevitable carnage across the track. Within 3 laps, three separate incidents plugged up arteries right in the middle of the 'X' and into turn 3, which resulted in the red flag waiving and a dead-stopped re-start.
The #316 had the early lead and would dart out in front off the 2nd green flag followed closely by the #10 and #77 cars. #514 and #49 got loose on the next laps and took out a couple other cars with them and the field started to shrink as drivers headed to the pits. The narrow track through the 'X' pushed several drivers to try and make a 4-wide pass on the grass for position. The slick grass on the tires only meant more problems staying on the asphalt! The #25 car had the worst time of this and spun out several times, at least once on each of the remaining laps!
The middle of the pack remained tight and provided some great side-by-side battles in the closing laps and the final big hit of the race was a T-bone shot delivered by the #99 car on #52 who spun out exactly in the wrong spot. The #77 car of Nick Lasher survived the chaos and captured the checkered flag.
Charlie Costello in the #6 School Bus pushed and slammed his way to the front of the pack to take the Monza race win. Costello fearlessly made several passes on the outside as well as right down the middle of a 3-wide pack through the 'X'!
..and now, finally, the main event! Bob Shea fired up Nemesis3 for the final event of the night! Shea made a pass by the crowd to get them amp 'ed up and then unleashed his first hit on the near set with a big wheel stand. He cut a quick donut on the infield grass and attacked the far set with more good air.
Shea tried for more donuts on the asphalt, but the non-locked rear end prevented that from happening. Shea hit two good jumps on the near set and then gave the blacktop donuts another shot and it worked this time around which really got the crowd going. Shea wasn't done just yet and unloaded his largest jump of the night with a 4-car clearing hit on the far side and bounced the landing into a third slap wheelie.
Shea flew Nemesis3 over the cars one more time and then crab-walked the truck down the front stretch and saluted the crowd! Another excellent performance from Shea and the fans really enjoyed the two performances from Nemesis3.
Overall, a solid Rockford Speedway outing despite the lack of hardcore thrill-events such as the rollover contest, Gauntlet race, or car stunts. Nemesis3 really performed well and that was the main reason for my attendance so I definitely left pleased and entertained. Big thanks to my Dad and Jackie for coming along and helping with the video aspect of the coverage. The video highlight of Nemesis3's two freestyles can be seen in the Rockford Speedway Video Theatre! Thanks for reading and checking out all the photos; I'll catch you at the next one!